When Joliet Catholic hired Dave Douglas to teach mathematics in 1985, he made a habit of saying yes to almost anything asked of him by the school.
Nearly 40 years later, Douglas still pretty much lives by that same mantra.
“I’m happy. I enjoy what I’m doing. I like going there every day,” Douglas said. “I like seeing the kids and the whole 9 yards and all the parts of the job that sometimes drive you nuts, but I like doing it and I like to go to work every day.
“We had Monday off recently, and I’m like, ‘I didn’t know that, because I don’t pay attention to the calendar.’ ”
Douglas doesn’t ordinarily need a calendar to guide him, because regardless of the season Douglas has something to do at the school. He even oversees the school’s summer work program to help students gain tuition assistance.
“I don’t even know how to [guess] the number of hours,” Douglas said. “During seasons, there’s a lot of time you’re just, you’re there all the time. And like I said, I’ve got a wife that understood all that and took care of us. And I think like my kids are good people, and we all got jobs, and they got their own families.
“So I feel like we’re in a good position in the world.”
Douglas is primarily recognized in coaching circles as a football coach. The 1975 graduate of Joliet Catholic joined the lower-level football staffs upon his arrival at Joliet Catholic and then elevated to the varsity staff as an assistant under Jim Boyter in 1987. That 1987 team went on to win the state championship, the first of nine state championship staffs at the school of which Douglas has been a part.
From 1989 to 2012, Douglas was the offensive line coach under Bob Stone and Dan Sharp, and in 2013 was appointed to the associate head coach role under Sharp, a position he still holds under current head coach Jake Jaworski. Douglas was inducted into the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2021.
“The best thing about Dave is, first of all, he’s there whenever you need him. He does so much behind the scenes,” Jaworski said. “And for a guy that wants no attention, no job is too small for him, whatever you ask him to do. The guy, after 40 years of coaching, is still filling up water bottles before we leave. He’s still the guy loading up the equipment.
“There’s no chance I’d be able to do my job if it wasn’t for him. He’s been such a great mentor for me.”
Douglas has deservedly received acclaim for his accomplishments as an offensive line guru, but football is far from the only coaching impact Douglas has had at both Joliet Catholic High School and St. Francis Academy. The two schools combined to form Joliet Catholic Academy in 1990.
During his lengthy tenure, Douglas has served as head girls basketball coach, sophomore head baseball coach, varsity badminton coach, assistant wrestling coach and put together a spectacular resume as the school’s softball coach before giving up the position in 2016. But not before he racked up 527 wins, 16 seasons with 20 or more victories.
Almost every one of those opportunities evolved simply because someone asked and Douglas wasn’t inclined to say no.
“It was kind of just one of those situations, when I first started and they needed a wrestling coach, and I was like, just because I wrestled in high school doesn’t mean I really remember what the heck I was doing, but they needed that, so I took care of that,” Douglas said. “Then there was a baseball opportunity, and I was involved with that. I was a freshman coach for a while, and then I was a sophomore coach, and then there was a basketball opportunity, and there’s always just been something where wherever they needed something, I’d step in if I could.”
Douglas’ career in the classroom has also been somewhat defined with his being able to take on whatever the math department needs. The always adaptable Douglas has seen his classroom responsibilities change, as he now spends half of his day as the school’s assistant athletic director/facilities coordinator, but in the end his classroom message has remained the same.
“I think the point I always try to make is that, ‘I know that you don’t get it and it doesn’t seem important, but there’s going to be a lot of challenges in your life where you don’t think it’s important, and then somewhere along the way, it might come back to help you,’ ” Douglas said. “And it might not be so much freshman algebra at that time that seems important. But as you do other maths, and then if you try to go want to go to college, they’re definitely gonna make you take more math classes, so that the more skilled you can become in different areas, the better off you’re going to be.”
Jaworski laughs at the notion that his old-school offensive line coach might be miscast in a mathematics class.
“There’s hardcore math going on in there,” Jaworski said. “And honestly, what makes him such a great coach is that he is such a great teacher. The best coaches out there are great teachers first.”
Douglas has no immediate plans to retire from the school even though his wife, Amy, is planning to retire at the conclusion of the school year from her position at Joliet Catholic as the school’s Academic Resource Director.
“I like going to work every day,” Douglas said. “There will probably be a point one day when I look at it and I’m not happy and I don’t want to do it anymore. But I don’t see that happening for a while.
“I’m just doing the things I like doing and so forth. As long as that’s the case, I’ll be here.”